The Malta Independent 17 August 2022, Wednesday

World Health Day: Maltese Prescribed double antibiotic dose as Swedes

Malta Independent Friday, 8 April 2011, 00:00 Last update: about 9 years ago

Studies show that Maltese patients are being prescribed double the antibiotic doses prescribed in Sweden, Health Minister Joe Cassar said yesterday.

Addressing a press conference on the occasion of World Health Day, Dr Cassar noted that antibiotics are being taken for flu viruses when anti-virals like Tamiflu are the medicines that cure flu.

“Antibiotics do not work in case of cold and flu symptoms,” he explained.

Overuse and misuse of antibiotics results in infections like MRSA which would be resistant to antibiotics and therefore do not respond to treatment. It is estimated that drug resistant infections cause more than 25,000 deaths a year in the EU alone.

‘Without action today we will find no cure tomorrow’ is the theme to mark this year’s World Health Day. The government has joined the World Health Organisation (WHO) in emphasising the importance of using antibiotics correctly and only when necessary.

Dr Michael Borg, who heads the Mater Dei Hospital Infection Control Unit, said people wrongly use antibiotic creams as suppository lubricants, to stop or prevent nose bleeds from happening and to ‘cure’ abrasions by keeping the skin moist.

However, an MRSA isolate identified in Malta was in fact found to be resistant to a type of antibiotic found in creams and which are often abused. Although MRSA is mostly associated with hospitals, this strain is mostly predominant in the community.

The use of pills and medicines seems to have dropped over the past few years but the same cannot be said for antibiotic creams which mostly become resistant when used sporadically and not in a course.

There are several MRSA bacteria and cures vary. While MRSA is not incurable, stronger, more toxic and more expensive antibiotics would need to be used in cases of resistant bacteria.

Dr Cassar appealed for doctors and pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics only when necessary and for patients to refrain from putting pressure on doctors for such prescriptions.

Moreover, farmers too are being instructed against using antibiotics in animal food as this is directly linked with the incidence of salmonella.

Dr Charmaine Gauci, director of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Department said talks and information sessions are being organised to educate professionals and people across the board on the matter. WHO is financially supporting the campaign.

In reply to questions from the Labour Party on the shortage of beds at Mater Dei Hospital and talks about the rehabilitation hospital that have not materialised, Dr Cassar announced that a study on whether there is a need for more beds at the hospital, and how many more, is under way. Moreover, the Karen Grech unit at the former general hospital has actually been turned into a rehabilitation hospital with nearly 200 beds.

A new rehabilitation hospital is also being planned, he added, stopping short of giving details.

Policies for MRSA prevention should be implemented – PL

In another press conference in the morning outside Mater Dei Hospital, Labour MP Marie Louise Coleiro Preca said it was of utmost importance for written policies on MRSA prevention to be implemented and enforced.

In reply to a parliamentary question this week, Minister Cassar said 254 MRSA cases were registered at Mater Dei Hospital since November. This meant other hospitals and the St Vincent de Paul Residence for the Elderly had not been taken into consideration, she said.

Prof. Anthony Zammit said that before the transition to Mater Dei Hospital, professionals were promised the MRSA problem would be solved once and for all with the new hospital since past procedures should not have been re-introduced and repeated.

This was part of the lack of strategic policy for Mater Dei Hospital where problems regarding bed shortages are a daily trouble for staff and patients. This adds stress to the 4,000 employees at the hospital who had a right to carry out their vocations serenely and have work satisfaction.

Dr Coleiro Preca noted the shortage was of 67 beds everyday. The primary healthcare system was moreover inadequate and general practitioners in the community were being ignored.

It was therefore no wonder that people were having to resort to the general hospital especially at night.

The rehabilitation hospital of 280 beds meanwhile was no longer being mentioned and Dr Coleiro Preca asked whether the budgeted funds were actually going for the building of a new parliament.

The hospital and health care in general were being managed by crisis and patients were being treated like ping pong balls.

“First the holding bay was introduced, then the corridor by the emergency department was turned into a ward and now the discharge lounge has been introduced,” she said.

She therefore appealed for a long-term policy and for structural problems to be addressed.

Prof. Zammit added that the lack of policy and future planning was greatly manifest in dementia. There were no statistics about the condition.

While 45 beds were launched in two new wards at the St Vincent de Paul residence where millions of euros had been spent, prevention work was not taking place even though this can serve as investment in the future.

It is estimated that 9,000 people will be suffering from dementia in 20 years’ time, he pointed out. This would be a financial burden on the people.

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